A U.S. Army M1 Bradley fighting vehicle rolls through a market in Kesra, Iraq, in February 2008. As part of its fiscal 2013 budget submission, the Army requested $148 million for upgrades to its BAE Systems-produced M2 Bradley fighting vehicle. The Republican-controlled House Armed Services Committee didn’t think that number was high enough, so it added $140 million to the bottom line. (File photo / U.S. Army)
It’s a rare thing for a U.S. military branch to tell Congress that it doesn’t want more money — or more modern equipment. But when it comes to continued congressional insistence that the Army needs more tanks and armored infantry carriers, that’s exactly what the head of the Army is doing.
As part of its fiscal 2013 budget submission, the Army requested $148 million for upgrades to its BAE Systems-produced M2 Bradley fighting vehicle. The Republican-controlled House Armed Services Committee didn’t think that number was high enough, so it added $140 million to the bottom line to bring the proposal up to $288 million.
Language in the House Appropriations defense subcommittee markup of the spending bill completed last week stated that while the committee supported the Army’s scheduled work to upgrade the track, suspension and forward-looking infrared systems on the Bradleys, more was needed. The extra $140 million would pay for improvements to the “power train and electrical system, in order to better support the technology advances of the Joint Tactical Radio System, Battle Command System, Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, and Second Generation Forward Looking Infrared” the bill stated.
The radio and networking systems are being evaluated by the Army at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. If all goes well, they will begin to be fielded to as many as eight brigade combat teams this fall.
The bill also adds $181 million to keep open General Dynamics Land Systems’ Abrams tank production line in Lima, Ohio. The original White House request was for $74 million to continue — and then close down — the Abrams M1A2 system enhancement package. The House is requesting a total of $255 million.
In the bill, the House writes that “the committee understands that the secretary of the Army has taken action using the additional funds provided by Congress in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012, that will mitigate risk to the industrial base. The additional funds recommended in this act will support a continuation of that effort. The additional tanks that will be produced will bring the tank fleet closer to a ‘pure fleet’ situation for training, operations, and logistics.”
The Army’s plans call for temporarily shutting down Abrams production for three years, then starting it back up for further modernization efforts.
Members of the House also added $100 million for the modernization of Humvees for the Army National Guard.
On May 17, the committee passed its $608 billion defense spending bill, which added $3 billion to President Barack Obama’s original budget request. The move sets the stage for the Senate Appropriations Committee to offer its version, which is expected to be closer to the original White House submission.
The additional money for Bradley modernization comes as the Army plans to phase out new production of Bradleys in 2012. It also comes weeks after Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, told an audience at the Association of the United States Army meeting in February that the vehicle “hasn’t done very well” in terms of survivability, and that in Iraq, “we lost more Bradleys than any other combat platform — and we haven’t used a Bradley in five years.”
In its bill, the House Appropriations Committee stated that “the Bradley fighting vehicle has performed well in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Roy Perkins, director of market creation at BAE Systems, said the company “supports congressional efforts to add funding to Bradley and M88 combat vehicle programs to maintain the industrial base, which also modernizes nondigital fielded Army vehicles that weren’t scheduled for replacement or upgrades.”
When it comes to performing work on the vehicles to bring them in line with the communications equipment still under evaluation at White Sands, Perkins added that the company is working with the Army’s Brigade Modernization Command to identify how to integrate the new systems being tested.
“The temporary integration may lead to future reconfigurations of the vehicles,” he said, “but only after the Army has decided which of the proposed subsystems they wish to pursue further, and which they decide not to pursue.”
The Army program manager for heavy brigade combat teams (HBCTs) did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
The Bradley’s place in those teams also is in flux, with the developmental Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) slated to replace about half of the M2 Bradleys in the Army’s 16 active and eight National Guard HBCTs starting in 2017.
While the GCV is in development and additional Bradley modernization is a subject of debate, the Army might actually trim the number of HBCTs in coming years due to budget pressures, service leaders have said. Odierno said earlier this year that the number of brigades could drop from today’s 45 to 32, contingent on the results of an internal force-mix study the service is conducting.
As part of this reduction, two HBCTs will not be redeployed or restationed once they complete their Afghan tours in 2013 and 2014. The two German-based brigades, identified as the 172nd Separate Infantry Brigade and the 170th Infantry Brigade, will be deactivated.
Still, Odierno said last week, there is a place for the HBCT in the future Army.
“There’s a role for armor in counterinsurgency,” he said.